Tag: Einstein

Pique the Geek 20110925: Faster than Light

The recent results from CERN (the acronym for the original name for the outfit, Conseil EuropĂ©en pour la Recherche NuclĂ©aire) about neutrinos being propagated faster than light speed has caught a lot of attention.  I am still not convinced that the data are correct, but 15,000 individual measurements at the high certainty that is claimed certainly gets one’s attention.

I am not prepared to say whether or not these results are valid as of yet.  The folks at CERN are begging other laboratories with comparable apparatus and expertise to verify (or to refute) the findings.  That is how science is supposed to work!

However, 15,000 individual determinations are a LOT of data!  Let us for the moment take the data at face value and assume that this is not a fluke nor a mistake, but an actual “violation” of the Special Theory of Relativity that indicates that no massive particle can exceed the speed of light, henceforth called c.  Ready to do some thought experiments?  I am!  Let us go!

Fantasy Fun 20101018: Let’s Have Dinner Together

Well, not you and me particularly, but with some historical figures.  This was sort of spurred by Keith Olbermann’s story about Michele Bachmann’s list of people with whom she would like to have dinner.  I could not imagine a dinner with only six to eight folks, including me, wherein I could meet everyone that I would want, so I have set up a series of dinners with diverse groups of folks that I would love to get to know.  By the way, K.O. will be in a future installment if there is enough interest in this series.

Tonight’s installment will include a dinner with physicists (or their historical counterparts) that are both living and dead.  Here are my rules:  1) I am not personally acquainted with anyone mentioned (a chance meeting, like on a flight does not count), 2) within certain limits, only a maximum of eight people can attend.  More than that would make highly interactive conversation difficult, and 3) there is no language barrier.

Pique the Geek 20100627: Near Light Speed Space Travel

I apologize for not including a post last week, but I suffered from a large amount of lack of motivation.  You see, this was the first wedding anniversary in 33 years on which the former Mrs. Translator and I were not wedded.  I poured out my heart the previous Friday night here, and was drained.

Saturday I went to the mailbox and found a parcel from her.  She had sent me one of the most authoritative and scholarly works about the American Civil War (I still have problems with the name of the war, because it was not, by definition, a civil war, but I am coming to understand that my previous preferred title, The War between the States, is quite inaccurate as well).  In addition to the wonderful book she sent a card that touched me, in a good way, so much that I guess that I was dumbstruck.  I will never mention anything about the contents of that card except to say that it was likely the most touching thing that I have known in many years, and the telephone conversation that followed made it even more so.

Einstein and How to Time Travel Into the Future

When things look really, really bad, it’s always comforting to me to stare at the stars. It provides a good dose of perspective to think about how fleetingly insignificant our little existence is in the cosmic big picture. I don’t know why. The eternity of the universe should offer no more comfort to me than it would have to a dinosaur. If they could think about such things.

But comforting it is. And even more comforting is to look out on the universe through the lens of science. Just as a pair of vice-grips enhance the strength of your hand, science enhances the ability to see and understand the universe.

I suppose part of the comfort lies not with the view that science affords, but with the science itself. To think we have come so far, the Hubble Telescope, the Principle of Relativity, spacecraft zipping around our solar system, only to be taken down by lesser minds such as the assclowns infesting the nations capital and Wall Street. On good days anyway.

Fun With Einstein

Many people don’t realize that perhaps Einstein’s greatest discovery, encoded within his Special Theory of Relativity, is that time travel is a real phenomenon. I was fifteen when I was first exposed to this concept and I refused to believe it. But over the years I slowly came to grasp the theory and eventually concluded beyond all reasonable doubt that it was a fact.

Of course, the phrase “time travel”, within the framework of Relativity is somewhat misleading. The fact is, we are all traveling into the future, as we speak. And we are surrounded by countless physical processes, serving as clocks to mark this fact.

So what Einstein really discovered was that we can travel into the future at different rates. This has been proven.

One way to think of it is like audio recordings being played back at different speeds. We’ve all heard a tape play back in slow motion, or sped up like chipmunks. Well, the Principle of Relativity demonstrates that when certain conditions are met, different observer’s “tapes” will play at different rates relative to others.

Most people think of time travel in terms of going into the past. I’m sure there are many events we would all like to undo. But Einstein’s Principle of Relativity strictly prohibits traveling back in time. There are many ways to describe why this is so, and many books on the subject, but it works just fine to think of it in terms of us all traveling mandatorally into the future, only at potentially different rates.

So we are all like little tape recordings in progress, and depending on certain conditions, those recordings can run faster or slower relative to someone else’s recording. Varying degrees of chipmunkization or being slowed down. So what are those certain conditions? Well, there’s really just one: go really really fast through space and you will go faster into the future. But watch for astroids.

Where have you gone, Albert Einstein?

In a recent diary by Cassiodorus, one point of his in particular struck me:

Thus the comparison between the Great Depression and the current Great Recession falls flat, because the popular upheavals of the 1930s are only in evidence today among the least helpful segments of the population.  This of course is a major reason why we can expect no FDR-like President to save us from the…economic collapse…

…During the 1930s…intellectual figures such as John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, Kenneth Burke, and Richard Wright were actual socialists and not just mere liberals offering occasional plugs for John Kerry.

Another prominent socialist, albeit a bit later than the Depression, was Albert Einstein.  He was an all around brilliant man, someone whom I admire greatly.  And he wisely said this, although today it would probably be considered way too radical for anyone respectable to utter: